Welcome to The Riverdale Review, a continuing series on the ever-popular television drama, Riverdale. We’ve finally made it – the last episode, Survive the Night, is here! Now that we’ve all had some time to absorb the indescribably bizarre happenings of this finale, let’s dive in!
Survive the Night Episode Recap
Riverdale’s finale had a lot of questions to answer. So many, in fact, that some of us thought it was an impossible task. Not for these writers! They answered them all and, in true Riverdale fashion, left us with a dozen more.
In the finale, the plot is tied up on two ends. The first is with the farm, as Edgar and the others prepare to “ascend,” and the other is in the woods with the Gargoyle Gang. Betty, separated from her friends and family, only manages to survive through her aunt, Penelope. When she hears from Toni that Betty is being held at the farm, Penelope moves quickly to buy her off of them. Betty wakes in a hunting lodge on Blossom property, where her friends Archie, Veronica, and Jughead have all also been ominously invited – and told to leave their cellphones behind. The four, dressed in medieval garb, sit to dinner with Penelope.
She tells the group that as the sons and daughters of the original midnight club, they are key players. They are then joined by two guests – the Gargoyle King and the Black Hood. Hal takes off the mask with no hesitation, but the Gargoyle King is stopped by Penelope as he begins to remove his disguise. She wants to hear Jughead’s guess, as the only one she thinks could figure it out.
Jughead pauses. Whoever it was must have had a connection to Hal, and Penelope, but not Jason because he’s dead – despite the missing body. The only corpse to be missing, and was last seen by the Black Hood, is Chic. The Gargoyle King takes off his mask to reveal Chic beneath – with dyed red hair.
The group piece together a little more of the mystery – including that Penelope was using Hal to take revenge on the town, that Chic was working with Hal the whole time and went to Penelope when he was imprisoned, and that Chic spread G&G around town, starting with Ben Button. Most importantly; Penelope wasn’t under the mask, but she was the Gargoyle King behind everything all along. But sitting around a table was never going to be our ending.
Penelope’s final test takes the teens into the woods, where she poses a terrifyingly simple task: survive the night. Each of the four faces a challenge designed for them – but Penelope insists that they can’t live through them all. Watched on all sides by snipers, and with only signs hanging from the trees to follow, the four make haste.
Back at the farm, Cheryl is desperate to escape. She attempts to bring Kevin and Fangs too, but their loyalty is unwavering. The room full of organs has been emptied, so Cheryl tears through the Farm for proof. It doesn’t take long to uncover more horrors – one room she bursts into causes her to scream in terror.
She runs to confront Edgar, and busts in on him and Alice having a conversation about the rumors Alice has heard about organ farming – and that she can’t reach Betty. Cheryl screams about Edgar’s grave robbing, and we put together where Jason’s missing body is before she is pulled from the room. Alice seems jarred, even as Edgar soothes her. Cheryl is locked in her room for causing a disturbance but isn’t there long. A lock turns and Cheryl stands ready to fight – before Alice appears on the other side, holding Juniper. She urges for her to follow, and the two women rush through the Farm to the secret exit below. This is where Alice hands over Juniper and begs Cheryl to get him to safety and find Betty to make sure she is safe.
Betty couldn’t be in more danger. In the woods, the first challenge is Archie’s, staged with a Red Paladin card. He is told to fight a grizzled beast – which, given Archie’s history with the animal, they assume to mean a grizzly bear. They find a man standing in the fighting pit though, wearing a pelt and skull of a bear. Archie manages to outwit his opponent, though much worse for wear.
The next quest is Veronica’s – the Enchantress. In faux-Russian Roulette style, they are faced with a tree stump and six chalices. One of which, the game tells them, is poisoned. Veronica and her “closest companion” must take turns spinning a bottle and drinking from each chalice. Betty volunteers, despite Veronica’s protests. They each take turns, the boys watching, terrified from the sidelines. At the last two chalices, Veronica picks up hers to sip it – and nothing happens.
Tears welling in her eyes, and Jughead by her side, Betty accepts her fate and reaches for the final chalice – only to be intercepted by Veronica. Calling out, the Enchantress snatches it away and drinks it herself. Her friends look on, horrified, but nothing seems to happen. At least, until Penelope steps out of the woods. She reveals that Veronica has passed her test – but the game is still ticking away. All the glasses were poisoned, not just one. Penelope says it should be slow acting for long enough to let them finish – but she’s not sure. The four rush away to face their next challenge, promised with the antidote should they complete them.
Between this and the next challenge, Archie catches Veronica for a moment. He admits that he’s scared one or both of them could die tonight and that he wants her to know he loves her, in case. Veronica reveals that nothing happened with her and Reggie because, well, she loved him too. They share a kiss, just before arriving at their next stop.
Jughead as the Hellcaster is a king in his own right in this world. So, it followed that his quest should be against a worthy opponent – another King. The group faces a battleground, with only a tree stump and an ax to show for it. Chic comes waltzing into the firelight and only gives Jughead a moment before he lunges for the weapon. Jughead doesn’t make it quickly enough but wrestles it from Chic soon enough. He manages to knock Chic out, but they don’t have time to celebrate as the poison begins to have a visible effect on Veronica.
While these struggles have been taking place, Toni has been preparing – she rallies the Poisons and the Serpents against their common enemies. Their little army prepares to raid the farm and rescue Cheryl, just as she runs out of the forest towards them. They celebrate their freedom together, but there’s not a moment to lose and Cheryl pleads to know where Betty is. As Toni begins to say she doesn’t know, Cheryl’s grandmother, Nana Rose, speaks up. Rose as Toni’s eyes and ears behind Penelope’s operation, tells the girls that Betty, and her friends, are being hunted at Thornhill.
There, the group reaches the final quest. Betty’s – the only one with no G&G counterpart. In a meadow beneath the trees, Betty is faced with a black box, tied with red string. Inside, she finds a gun – loaded with one bullet. The Black Hood steps out from the shadows and tells Betty she has to kill him to complete her challenge. That this has always been her destiny. When she hesitates, he pulls out his own gun and aims – she has to kill Hal, or he’ll kill her and her friends.
He counts down from three, and Betty’s panic increases. She fires. We watch Hal crumble to the ground – and scream out in pain. She’s only shot off his fingers, and she calls across that she will never be like him. Penelope appears too, disappointed in Hal. He has outlived his usefulness, she announces and pulls a pistol from her satchel. Betty’s legs give out beneath her as she watches Penelope shoot her father. When Veronica and Jughead console her, Archie darts out to retrieve the antidote, hanging from a nearby tree.
Though they have survived the night and proven they are better than the town, Penelope sentences them to death. She sics the Gargoyle Gang on them, and the four leap to their feet. Their desperate race through the woods is accented by the rising sun. As dawn breaks, they reach a dirt path – where Cheryl, Toni, the Poisons, and the Serpents are waiting. Cheryl screams for them to take cover as the group fires arrows upon their assailants. The girls gulp down the antidote as they find cover, and only come out when Cheryl and Toni call. The four share a hug, desperation and relief washing over them.
Betty is the first to split, asking Cheryl how she escaped the Farm. When her cousin reveals that Alice sprung her, Betty insists that they have to rescue her. Cheryl invites Betty and the others to hop in, and they speed to the Farm. They’re too late, though. Bursting through the doors only reveals Kevin, sitting alone, surrounded by the white robes and shoes of the other Farmies. Between tears, he tells them that he wanted to go, but someone had to stay behind to explain that the other ascended. Alice and Polly included – and Kevin says that we’ll never see them again.
We’re treated now with an ending for each of our favourite characters.
Cheryl comes first, carrying a candlestick as she did in her first nightmare with Jason’s body, and when she burnt down their family mansion. She walks through the hallways of what used to be the Farm, and enters the room with Jason’s slumped corpse, bloated and tied at the lips. “Welcome home, JJ,” she says.
We see Veronica and Hermione next – just as Hermione receives a phone call from a lawyer. It’s clear that she’s discovered something that Hiram hid from her, but before she can say what, FBI bust into the apartment. Veroncia jumps up, identifying the agent who helped her take Hiram down in the first place. There’s nothing to be done as Hermione is cuffed and driven away, but she calls to Veronica that she should call Sowerberry, her father’s lawyer.
Archie’s gym is the setting for his finale, as he spars with Mad Dog. The two chat and Archie tell him about his plans for changes to El Royale – to be a halfway home. Archie insists there should be a place for kids like Ricky to come so they don’t have to get in with gangs to survive. And he wants Mad Dog to help him run it.
Jughead and Betty share an ending. The two are relaxing (if it can be called that) at the Jones’ home, when a knock comes from the door. They find an FBI agent on the other side and begin to insist they don’t know anything more about the Lodges than he would. The gentleman reveals that he’s come to talk about the Farm. The three sit down in the living room, as Agent Smith tells them that Edgar has been under investigation for some time. They were trying to get in to take him down but were waiting on the word of their informant. Alice Smith.
Betty reels as the agent describes how Alice has been helping him build a case for months. Now, they’re setting up in Riverdale so that they can find her. Betty pauses to admit that she finds this agent vaguely familiar and asks if they’ve met. He replies that they haven’t, but that it’s no coincidence that Alice was working with him. His first name is Charles. Betty and Jughead stop in their tracks, as Charles reveals he’s Betty’s half-brother, and when Jughead pipes up, that this would make him Jughead’s brother as well.
Finally, the four come together at Pop’s to talk about everything that’s transpired. Betty and Jughead tell Veronica and Archie about Charles, and everyone tries to process it. Veronica’s mother is trying to cut a deal with the DA, but until that happens, Smithers is her legal guardian. The group decides to make a vow – to be done with death cults, murder mysteries, and everything else for their senior year. The four of them toast-
The scene is interrupted by a flash forward, and text reveals it’s spring break of their senior year. Archie, Veronica, and Betty stand around a bonfire, wearing only underwear and covered in blood. Betty is the first to speak and coldly insists that they have to burn all their clothes, including Jughead’s beanie. Archie has said beanie in his hand and turns it in his fingers as she speaks. Betty continues that they’ll wash off the blood, and never speak of what happened to anyone after tonight – this, she says, is the only way they won’t be caught. Reluctantly, Archie tosses the beanie on the fire. The camera pans out farther as we realize Jughead is nowhere in sight.
Back in the present day, we are jarred with the four friends’ happy faces, and they finish their toast with a promise. Friends forever.
Thoughts on Survive the Night
Who would’ve thought that we’d have just as many questions leaving this episode as we had going in…
Where was Fred Andrews?
It probably slipped your mind after that ending, but most of us assumed that Luke Perry’s character, Fred Andrews, would be killed off by the end of the season. Perry’s death came as a shock midway through, and we haven’t seen much of Fred since. Well, according to an interview with showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, they did try to figure out a season 3 ending for Fred. The season was going by so quickly though that they decided there wasn’t enough time to do Fred and Perry justice with anything this season. Instead, they had Molly Ringwald, who plays Archie’s mother Mary, stay on for some extra screen time. It will, however, be addressed early in Season 4.
What did Hermione find out about Hiram?
Any guesses what that last call was about with Hermione’s lawyer? How many scandals has Hiram not had already? Of course, it could be a repeat, but a season finale kind of secret needs a little depth to satisfy us. No doubt something crazy is underway, as Hiram’s never one to take a betrayal lightly – not even from his own daughter.
Charles Smith is alive – and he was working with Alice?!
A twist I don’t think any of us saw coming until moments before it happened was Charles coming back alive. There will be so many good moments in the next season to come! I think my favourite will be Charles meeting F.P. But with all those moments come the questions to boot.
Did Chic ever know Charles at all, let alone kill him? He doesn’t seem very dead. He could have been injured and survived, or Chic could have killed someone else entirely, thinking it was Charles. Or just lying about it being Charles all together.
How long has Alice known about Charles – and why not say anything? Sure, I could see Alice needing to help the FBI and sell the rouse, but the things she did this season were extreme. Leaving Betty homeless and alone was rough, to start. The kind of things you wouldn’t think Alice would do just for an investigation. Fair, she probably really wanted to help Charles, but at Betty’s expense? Part of me wants to say that she should have told Betty what was going on, but Betty does tend to spill beans to her friends, who include an impassioned writer who’d do anything for Betty and his sheriff father, a businesswoman with shady ties and whose parents are the mayor and a crime lord, and an irrational boxer with a hot streak and his lawyer mother. So, I’m with Alice on that. Still though, seems harsh.
So was Polly faking it all too? Jason wanted to go to the Farm, which is what we though had lured Polly over. Then, Polly introduced Alice into it. Perhaps Alice realized she had to do something to protect Polly from the Farm? The timeline is a little messy (especially since we don’t know it), but it all comes together in an incredible acting job for Alice. Polly has seemed very invested in the Farm all this time and would have no particular reason to be working with Charles before Alice did. Plus, she was openly working with Edgar to trick Betty, behaving as her dark self. There would be a lot of explaining to get out of that one. So, most likely, Alice is in on the FBI and Alice isn’t. But speaking of…
What’s going on with Juniper and Dagwood?
They’re both free from the Farm now, but without Alice and Polly, who gets custody? Penelope, who was taking care of one, has now vanished without a trace, but we don’t know if she took one of the twins with her. Cheryl had the other, but she and Betty are under 18, meaning that depending on the laws in the United States, they may not be able to be the twins’ legal guardians.
Where did everyone who ascended go?
Everything that has at first appeared magical or nonsensical has always had an explanation in the end. So, though it certainly looks as if the Farmies were teleported away to heaven, stripped of their earthly clothing, there must be a better answer. But what did they do to Kevin to make him believe that? It could be that they did what they’ve done before, flitting off to another town to find more victims – but then why set the FBI up in Riverdale? It always comes back to our horrorville!
Last but not least… is Jughead going to die in season 4?!
That final question is the one that haunts me the most. We’ve all come to love all the core four actors and killing one off is just unthinkable. Especially Cole Sprouse, who is beloved by so much of the fanbase! Yet, that’s definitely what the finale wants us to think. Interviews with those involved have only been more cryptic! Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa in another interview talks about the finale, and discusses that Riverdale is about “subverting expectations… This is their senior year. It is the time for them to spend as much time together because it’s the last time they’ll spend together maybe all as the group… what if what binds our group together isn’t just the camaraderie of senior year but a crime that has them at the absolute center of it?”
About Jughead specifically, he’s evasive and says nothing concrete, only that “something extremely terrible hadn’t happened to one of our core four – it was always peripheral characters… in terms of something that would really strike at the heart of the core four, it felt like one of them had to be at the bleeding heart of this crime…” In the end, all we can do is wait for the next season, and hope that we don’t lose Cole Sprouse quite yet.